Retired FDNY Lt. John Mulzac, a Tuskegee Airman who took to the skies in three wars, died this week. He was 91.
Mulzac, a Brooklyn resident, was an original member of the elite Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces. During World War II, Black Americans in many U.S. states were still subject to the Jim Crow laws and the American military was racially segregated, as was much of the federal government. The Tuskegee Airmen were subjected to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army. The heroism shown by the Tuskegee Airmen is said to have influenced President Harry S. Truman’s decision to desegregate the military in 1948. The airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2006, the highest honor bestowed by Congress. The pioneering pilot moved from manning flight controls to manning fire hoses in 1947. He retired from the Fire Department in 1967 as a lieutenant, then worked as a sky marshal and as a U.S. Customs inspector before retiring for good to concentrate on his role as the patriarch of eight children, 22 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. For Black History Month and for their bravery and heroism, we honor Lt. John Mulzac's life and all of the Tuskegee Airmen.